Time’s up for body-clock disruption


Flinders University researchers are embarking on a three-year-long study to try to discover if a personalised sleep regime and readjusting the body clock can help treat some types of insomnia, shift work disorder and other forms of  body-clock disruption such as jetlag.

Led by renowned sleep and respiratory physiologist Professor Peter Catcheside, the researchers are about to begin a three-year study to develop and test a first of its kind personalised body-clock tracker to gather data to readjust the body-clock in shift-workers and those with circadian sleep disorders.

“We want to solve one of the biggest ongoing problems in sleep medicine by devising a practical way to reliably track and treat people with a body-clock timing problem,” says Professor Catcheside.

“We will use a range of technology, including heart rate, skin and core body temperature and motion monitors, in combination with physiology and engineering analysis methods, to track the daily core body temperature minimum time. This is a key marker of when the body-clock is most sensitive to re-timing effects of blue-enriched light.

“By refining and testing a first of its kind combination of high-performance wearable-sensor and circadian physiology and engineering-based analysis methods, we will be able to determine someone’s individual daily light exposure timing needs for body-clock readjustment.

“Information gathered from tracking the body-clock will allow us to tailor therapies to individual shift-workers and individuals with sleep problems arising from a disrupted body-clock,” he says.

The circadian system or ‘body clock’ plays a key role in regulating daily fluctuations in the activity of cellular and organ functions throughout the body. This complex system underpins much of our ability to perform well mentally and physically, and to sleep well.

However, with shiftwork, travel to different time-zones, and in some sleep disorders, the body-clock and wake-sleep activity cycles become disrupted.

Disruptions in the circadian and sleep systems could also play a role in chronic diseases, such as metabolic problems, heart disease, weakened immune function and a range of cognitive and mental health problems.

Professor Catcheside, who works at Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute (FHMRI): Sleep Health, says the new project will build on recent findings from a Defence Science and Technology Group funded trial which investigated the use of smart lighting to accelerate body-clock adjustment to shiftwork.